Saturday, February 27, 2010

Selective Memory Update

A few posts ago I stated I am trying to cure a particularly cumbersome problem, having an involuntarily selective memory. Here's an update plus some procedure additions.

As of far, I have found the most beneficial change to be that of reducing the variety of reading I do at any one time, especially that with books. A few weeks ago I attempted to read The Ominous Parallels and The Primal Blueprint at the same time, sometimes finishing a chapter in one book and then immediately resuming the reading of the other. I was frustrated with the difficulty I was having with retaining information from either one of them, and how difficult it was to read TOP when I was so intensely interested at the time at only reading TPB. My conception was that reading more than one book at a time would be more efficient and beneficial for my learning, but I think now that such a notion may not be right for my personal lifestyle. I could study and do homework assignments from multiple books at one time, but for pure reading it is probably most effectual that I focus on one thing at a time.

So for the past week or so I have set down TOP in favor of TPB and am noticing a significant improvement in my retention of the material. I remember that lectins are a type of plant protein that can cause autoimmune responses. I know the difference between melatonin and serotonin. I see justification as to why chronic cardio exercises can lead to the release of destructive hormones. I can remember this material past my reading it, and what makes this more interesting is that I'm in particular able to remember strange scientific words such as phytates that I am normally not accustomed to using consistently. Improvement!

I find this particularly heartening since for the past several months my interest in nutrition has been increasing and I have been finding it difficult to do scientific reading since my mind couldn't hold on to the foreign terminology. Now that I'm making progress in this regard it opens the door widely to furthering my intellectual competence.

Furthermore, I find my motivation to read increasing. It was difficult to bring myself to TOP when I wanted to read TPB, so I couldn't focus on my reading when I attempted it and my comprehension would be harmed by my immediately replacing philosophical thoughts with scientific thoughts as soon as I had gotten enough of TOP and excitedly switched to TPB.

Once I finish TPB I will focus exclusively on TOP next. I am not sure if this "one book at a time" procedure will apply to me always throughout my life, but for now this is what I'll do.

As for procedure changes, based on further recommendations:

1.) When dealing with new information, I'll try to imagine a hierarchical flow chart and place the information according to where it fits, according to how it's supported by prior information and how it supports following information, or else I'll recite to myself a chain of reasoning that keeps everything connected and interrelated. For instance, if I wanted to remember precisely how weight-gain and degenerative diseases occur I'll recite to myself the information in the exact order of the process: the excessive consumption of carbohydrates, the body's insulin response, the conversion of glucose to fat, the storage of fat, the effects after consistent exposure to too much insulin, and so on. This way I can remember individual facts by connecting them to a larger whole.

2.) When dealing with names, I'll try to consciously associate them with as much meaning a possible. For example, the reason why I can retain the words melatonin and serotonin even though they're scientific terms I'm unaccustomed to is because I know what physical impact they have on the body: serotonin is produced when one is exposed to light (through the eyes I assume, rather than skin) and makes for wakeful, cheerful moods, and is converted into melatonin when the light fades, making the body feel prepared for sleep. While I may not fully understand how these "hormones" (a term I have not properly integrated yet) work, I can remember them because I associate them with what they do.

So far so good. I'll give another update at a later time.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nutrition, Cooking, and My Central Purpose

One of my New Year's resolutions -- semester goals really -- is to make some sort of intellectual advancement in determining what my central purpose in life will be, meaning what pursuits I would like to dedicate the entirety of my life to (this doesn't just apply to careers). For years I held onto the conviction that I wanted to be a writer, and writing practice is in fact one of the reasons why I started up Benpercent (but not Musing Aloud), but upon some introspection I determined that it is not actually something I want to dedicate my life to. When I came upon this realization I was reading The Prime Movers at the time and was marveling at how much good producers exert their mental faculties toward their central purpose, and it made me realize that writing was not my purpose since I seldom thought about it, only did it in moderate amounts, and only mildly cared about it. If writing were truly my purpose then certainly I would value it higher and engage myself in it more often than I did.

As such, since then I have been going about completely confused as to where I would like to exert my efforts toward. I kept secret the elimination of my dream to write for a living since I thought my readers would become disinterested and suspicious of my future writing practices upon finding out, but I believe I have sufficiently proven myself capable otherwise since I still value the intellectual benefit I get from writing and still achieve my goals of advocating and defending my convictions through this medium even though I may not necessarily value writing in itself. I may not be as willing to dedicate as much time as before, but still my two blogs will be continued.

In the past few weeks, however, I've noticed a trend in my thinking and desires that has persisted for nearly a year. Last spring or so is when I decided to pick up the book Good Calories Bad Calories as per Diana Hsieh's recommendation*. I was in my midst of taking greater care of my health by working to better adhere to the Standard American Diet (SAD), and so was absolutely shocked to find out that the science SAD is based on is corrupt and unreliable. From there I slowly transitioned to a high fat Paleo diet with moderate carbohydrate intake, but that simply wasn't and isn't enough for me. I did not want to merely glean general principles of eating and leave it at that, but to fully validate my conclusions by learning intricately the scientific and governmental corruption behind conventional wisdom and to remedy it by learning intricately the objective rules of proper nutrition and by thinking of political solutions to current problems.

*(Though I haven't finished it yet due to its informational density. It's on my reading list and I do have a fresh purchased copy on my coffee table, so I will get to it later and perhaps construct a review of my own.)

In practice not only have I started studying nutrition but also have developed an intense interest in cooking and baking, and have been engaging in them more as a result. This has resulted in psychological changes: I find myself increasingly disappointed in going to restaurants (except higher class ones like Red Lobster), having other people cook for me, and in microwave fare; I have been getting increasing pleasure from grocery shopping, collecting recipes, eating (I hated eating when I was on the SAD), and in simply preparing my own meals within accordance of my nutritional standards. (I have not yet had the pleasure of cooking for someone I value.) As I've stated above, this interest has persisted for nearly a year now and seems only to be getting stronger as I find myself becoming more learned in nutrition and competent in cooking.

Previously I kept telling myself that this would probably only be a hobby to me, but since my interest is intensifying maybe there is something to this. Maybe it isn't just a hobby. Maybe this is something that reflects a deeper value within me that I haven't identified yet. I know that one of my criteria for a life's pursuit is that it must be intellectual in its nature, not something of pure manual labor, and a study of nutrition as it applies to cooking does satisfy that criterion, though I do admit more criteria need to be identified.

It's frustrating being unemployed right now since that limits my ability to adhere with the utmost strictness to my dietary standards and to increase my culinary pursuits, but I am making well with what I have. In my employment pursuit I have decided to focus my efforts nearly exclusively towards restaurants given the significant amount of establishments in my immediate area.

I don't know yet what such a developing interest means for my personal future or how it should affect my actions other than in my studying and cooking habits, but this interest just may be the advancement I need for thinking about my central purpose.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Curing a Selective Memory

For those who don't know, my last major self-improvement venture was in curing my lifelong speech impediment. For nearly my entire history people had always found something peculiar about my way of speaking, and my being used to my speech patterns rendered me unable to detect what that peculiarity was. After getting some input from a respected audience I finally got speech therapy, where I soon found out that the source of my trouble was due to a consequence of my hearing-impairment: I was omitting sounds I am deaf to, the /s/ and /th/ (both voiced and unvoiced) sounds. After incorporating the proper tongue movement practices and quickly skimming through Change Your Voice for instructions on how to properly place my voice I have managed to completely rid myself of the lifelong defect. I still do not like the aesthetics of my voice, but I have come to terms with it since I have come to understand that my hearing will always influence the way I interpret my own pitches, so I must settle myself with the fact that no one else is offended by my voice.

This is a big accomplishment considering how many months I worked on it and how negatively my past speech patterns influenced my relationships. Now I would like to take upon myself what I view to be my next big self-improvement venture, curing what I consider to be a "selective memory," another long-present problem.

In this particular context I do not mean "selective" as in that I consciously choose what to and what not to remember, but rather that my memory has the tendency to automatically filter information based on previously established mental attributes whether or not I consciously direct an effort to do so.

Since my particular area of concern is within the realm of education (rather than on, say, people and street names) I clarify with an example from my studies: right now I am engaged in the reading of the whole health book The Primal Blueprint. While it is written to be accessible to the layman there is technical terminology present in order to explain how certain physiological phenomena occur, such as how the insulin spikes occur after consuming excessive carbohydrates. I find that despite my efforts otherwise my memory seems unable to retain newly presented terminology and facts regarding bodily substances, such as what cholesterol is composed of or how it travels in the bloodstream, but in overly broad terms I am able to glean from my reading general health practices and certain physiological principles (e.g. I can retain that eating too many carbohydrates spikes the insulin and increases the risk for various diseases, but I'll forget the various factors that explain why this is so).

My intention, of course, is not to remember every single thing I exert my mind towards -- I know that's impossible. What it is I hope to accomplish is improving my memory so that it doesn't automatically filter out what it habitually treats as "nonessential information" even though I am working to integrate it. My purpose in trying to accomplish such is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of my psychological-epistemology, be a better purveyor of my views, become a better activist, and be able to deal with life more effectively. For instance, in my current context I consistently find myself in the embarrassing position of having my health practices witnessed and questioned, but at the time I am unable to provide a detailed or logically valid justification for why I maintain them (such as eating lots of fat or wearing VFFs) even though I know I validated my reasons in my private study. Another example would be knowledge regarding nutritional supplementation, which is a very complicated health concern: I may be able to retain education about baseline dosages and toxicity levels, but I forget the fullest physiological impact such supplementation may have on me, which in practice renders me less able to adjust my practices regarding fluctuations in my diet or new exercise habits.

So far my plans on how to tackle this problem are not substantial:

1.) Reduce the amount of variety of information I have to deal with day-to-day: A few days ago I was experiencing immense frustration at the fact that I was trying to educate myself on several subjects a day (both formally and informally) but was in actuality learning very little. It was then that I realized that I was stretching myself too thin and spending very little time with each individual subject, so I resolved to be more concentrated in my day-to-day efforts. For example, in my blog reader feed, which is where this resolution primarily applies, I will allow certain authors to stockpile their posts while I focus on others so that I can concentrate on a few varied subjects at a time instead of trying to read updates from everyone all at once from subjects varying from international politics to new reports on vitamin research.

2.) Make as many lists as necessary: One thing that has been harming my overall productivity is that I've often abused my planner by trying to put everything in it, from school assignments to future blogging subjects. This has caused my planner to become an almost incomprehensible block of text that is intimidating in its sheer amount of littered words. I have remedied the problem by composing three separate lists, thereby reducing dramatically the clutter of information: in my planner I document only planned activities, on a separate sheet of paper by my computer I keep track of writing subjects, and in a blue notebook I carry in my pocket I document my random thoughts for later tracking (which I remind myself to check by writing "check notebook" in my planner). I find so far that this has not only reduced information clutter but also increased my thinking efficiency since my blue notebook takes the strain off my mind from having to retain my smallest ideas.

This is all I can think of for now. If you'd like to suggest something, do so! I will post further updates on progress and new practices.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Lost in Disconnection?

[Only gender-neutral pronouns are used in this post.]

In my post Those Insignificant in Life I wrote about dealing with people who don't truly matter in life, and illustrated it with a personal anecdote. I would like to prod more into that personal anecdote for epistemological purposes.

Since the writing of that piece opposition against me has temporarily burned out. Seeing how steadfast I am in my principles (though they are not observed as principles) and how uncomfortable some feel to discuss the issue with me since I expose many evasions my opponents have quit until the next time their emotions flare up. It was frustrating to me to try and figure out why they were acting in such a manner (making straw men out of my arguments despite repeated corrections, insulting me, ignoring what I say, accusing me to being an emotionalist, etc.), but due to a bit of thinking about a few incidents that have happened fairly recently I think I have another piece of the puzzle, though I would like to understand further what other pieces go with this one via reader input.

Several weeks ago while I was preparing some food for processing I was again engaged in a conversation about Man X by a person that happened to be with me at the time. I got frustrated and informed him that not only has this topic been covered many times but that we were also having essentially the exact same conversation: when this topic comes up my opponents simply restate their points over and over, never presenting any new information or perspectives. Out of curiosity as to whether or not this person has even ever listened to me, I asked him to restate to me my essential reason for not associating with Man X. We have been having this conversation for well over a year, so after so much repeating of the same points over and over again he certainly should know. He got the answer flagrantly wrong. Not only did he state a wrong answer, he cited an answer I have been adding extreme emphasis to that it was NOT the reason why I refused to associate with X.

I was surprised, but not terribly so. How could, after a year of repeated and stale discussion, have he failed to comprehend even my most basic and oft repeated point?

Then I got the answer when I introspected about another chain of incidents. The same person I conversed with above often takes it upon himself to prepare some of my meals, despite the fact he claims to hate cooking, as he thinks he's doing me a favor given my financial standing. Well, since I have adopted a Paleo diet he has noticed my changing nutritional habits and has been trying to alter his meal preparations accordingly, but he has found it immensely frustrating. During the preparing of some meals he would throw a tantrum and loudly state how hard he found it to cook for me. I would politely (at first) point out to him that he is not obligated to cook for me and that I am competent enough to do it for myself, and since I actively value cooking while he claims to disvalue it I would be more than happy to take up the task entirely. After stating that he would cease his frustration and the subject would be dropped from thereon. However, despite having had it pointed out to him that all his frustration is being brought upon himself and that he has no merit in trying to make me feel guilty for making cooking "so hard," he would continue to throw tantrums in the following evenings and proceed to intensify them, making each louder and ruder than the last. Then one evening he virtually shouted at me how hard I made cooking for him and confessed that he loved cooking (contradicting the dozen of claims to the contrary he put forth) and that I had made him hate it due to my nutritional guidelines. I walked to the table in mild anger, ignoring what he said, and then when he sat down he started talking innocently to me as if nothing happened, and when he offered me some food I uttered an obscenity at him (we were now beyond the threshold of polite discourse).

What he asked next further exposed his psycho-epistemology to me. With mild moral righteousness he asked, "Why are you [acting] so ugly?"

Upon introspection of this and other incidents I have identified that this person is living his life disconnectedly, meaning he never considers his days and actions in a total sum, instead opting to view each day and action in complete isolation from the others. The reason why the person asked me why I was acting so mean to him is because to him the fact of his throwing a loud and rude tantrum just five minutes ago has now phased out of existence and has no bearing on anything. He has also phased out of mind the previous tantrums he threw the nights before. I do not consider my days or my actions in isolation, so the expression of anger towards him was the result of my considering in a total sum not only all of this person's tantrums, but also of his blatant refusal to correct his actions after his mistaken assumptions were exposed. I was feeling angry due to the fact I was considering the total weight of his actions combined, but to him nothing of significance had occurred within the last four minutes to provoke such anger.

After further introspection I realized that this may also explain the inappropriate manner of argument this person engages in when he takes on to argue with me about X. The answer he gave when I asked him to restate my given reason for not associating with X was that of the single incident that happened to lead to mine and X's disassociation. For over a year I have been trying to make clear to people that this incident is not what lead me to disassociate from X, that my choice to keep X entirely out of my life is based on the conclusion I reached about him after giving consideration to beyond a decade's worth of evidence. After summing up my dealings with him I came to conclude that Man X was in total an immoral and vicious person, and that I have nothing of spiritual worth to gain from him, so I calculated to kick him out of my life as soon as I could. Luckily for me soon came an incident which lead to our separation, and I have been adhering to my convictions as I said I would. However, people ignore me when I say I have been planning to do this to X for a long time and instead choose to see this as a matter of my being upset over a single instance of X's irrationality.

This also further explains why those individuals choose to continue to deal with X even though they have far more evidence of his immoral character, and therefore just cause to want to disassociate from him. When I point out how malicious in the past he has been it has been pointed out to me that he's now being "nice" (read: not bad; entirely a morally neutral, not positive, evaluation). Despite the fact he has decades under his belt that amount to him being an immoral person some are ready to consider him a moral person on the basis of a few isolated, morally neutral actions on his part.

All this means I'm dealing with massive context droppers. These people never allow evaluations to amount to sums in their mind and so in action only consider things in disconnected isolation and become confused when sums are involved.

The question I have that I would like reader input on is this: Why do these people operate in this way? Is it a result of epistemological damage, or do they do this as a process of evasion? If it's evasion, then for what purpose do they evade?